Driving on the N98/D559 coastal road between St Aygulf and Sainte-Maxime, you would never know there's a walking path that runs parallel down below. The coastal footpath is hidden behind sea-facing villas, down coves, behind cliffs, around gardens with benches and maritime pines.
Even close up, the footpath is hard to spot. With great humility, it takes on the colors of the surrounding rocks and melts in the picture. What's more, while the N98 turns slow and cranky with cars between July and August as St Tropez calls, the coastal footpath stays comfortable.
Therein lies one of the devilish pleasures of hiking the coastal path: you may well travel faster on foot than by car during peak season.
This short hike (5 km or 2 hours round-trip) takes you from Port Ferréol to the Pointe des Issambres between the towns of St Aygulf and Sainte-Maxime.
Time: 2 hours for 5 km round-trip
Difficulty: Easy, but plenty of stairs on rocky short. Not ideal for young children.
Highlights: Discover an ancient Roman vivarium. Hear the lapping waves as you walk by the sea, with the Estérel Mountains behind you and the St Tropez Peninsula ahead.
From St Aygulf, pass the Pointe du Corsaire and its Hotel Corsaire and then the Port Ferréol barely visible from the N98 road. Just after Ferréol, at the Pointe de la Calle turn left where you spot the sign "Vivier Maritime Gallo-Romain".
From Sainte-Maxime, pass the seaside towns of San Peire, Les Issambres, and be on the look-out for the sign "Vivier Maritime Gallo-Romain" after you pass the Port Tonic (about 2 km after the white restaurant Le Cercle by the sea).
At the sign for the vivarium, head east for the sea and reach the Sentier du Littoral with its yellow signs.
You walk south east, as you hike toward Sainte-Maxime.
Notice the site of a Roman "vivarium", a salt water fish pond. Romans carved the sea pool in the rock to hold captive fish such as congers and mullets alive and fresh for dinner. To keep waters flowing and circulating in the vivarium, they built canals regulated by bronze doors that open and shut. It's hard not to think of how simple and un-polluting the system was, working with the waves and the existing carved shoreline and rocks. With a little imagination and the help of the interpretative panel, you can see fish swimming in the vivarium some 2000 years ago.
Continue over Port Tonic and its handful of boats.
You spot a rounded white restaurant overlooking the sea. It's seafood restaurant Le Cercle with its private beach of fine white raked sand.
After the restaurant, the coastal path presents a slight danger as stairs climb and rocks can be slippery. Be sure not to tread there after a storm or rain pour. The county occasionally posts a recommended a brief detour to the street around this cliff, should the path be unstable.
Continue along to the Pointe des Issambres. You can return on the same path or on the much less foot friendly N98.
- Le Cercle restaurant, Tel: 04 94 49 14 46
- Roquebrune-sur-Argens Tourism Office
Interested in more gently adventurous hikes on the Côte d'Azur? Read our latest hiking guidebook below.